Neon Genesis Evangelion. Perhaps no other anime has caused as many ripples and evoked as much controversy as this anime had during the 1990s. Even now, years after its conclusion, otaku still huddle together in bars, taking long drags on cigarettes and engaging in heated debates and waxing philosophical. Under muffled breath they discuss drinking games they once played; everyone would take a shot of their liquor of choice for every biblical reference made during the show. Most of them didn’t make it passed the second episode. Well, OK, perhaps it didn’t happen exactly like that, but there is no doubt the show’s director and brains behind the operation, Anno Hideaki, has gotten inside everybody’s head. What most people don’t know is that he has been doing it for years.
May 22nd, 1960, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. That was Anno-san’s official birth date and place. It can be said, however, that his real birth occurred when he was fourteen years old; this is when he witnessed Space Battleship Yamato for the first time. The experience carved itself in his mind, and the snowball that is his career started rolling down the hill and gaining momentum. Four years later he would enroll in the Filmmaking Department at the Osaka College of Art. There he would meet one of the most influential people in his life: Yamaga Hiroyuki. Both would be responsible, years later, for the creation of the anime company that spearheaded artistic innovation: Gainax. During his college years Anno produced numerous short, 8mm films, most of them either influenced by or parodying anime.
After graduation, Anno and Yamaga traveled to Tokyo. There he gained employment as an animation gopher for the pilot episode of Macross. It’s in 1984, however, that his career was given a huge shot in the arm. It was during this year, at the age of twenty-four, that he became key animator for two of the most popular anime movies of the decade: Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind and Macross: Do You Remember Love?. Working alongside the great Miyazaki Hayao proved to be a life-altering experience; to this day he considers the living legend his mentor. Miyazaki wondered how his young protégé was able to get any work done at all; his desk was a figurative disaster area, covered from top to bottom with manga and reference material.
The next few years would prove to be his busiest. He lent his animating prowess to critical masterpieces Grave of the Fireflies and Wings of Honneamise. The latter was such a bold step for fledgling Gainax and its staff of twenty-somethings. At the time it was the most expensive anime movie ever produced, and came to symbolize the financial lengths that the company would go to to achieve success. He followed these triumphs with animation work for Char’s Counterattack and flexed his considerable directorial muscles in Gunbuster: Aim for the Top! and the Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water television series. It was at this time that he became a household name in the anime industry.
In 1994, Anno Hideaki started work on a Gainax production known as Neon Genesis Evangelion. The response was both international and overwhelming, to say the least. The last two episodes were so controversial that Anno published an alternate ending in the form of End of Evangelion. So mentally exhausting was not only the criticism but also the entire production process that he took a sabbatical from anime and flirted with live-action movies. His movie Love & Pop nevertheless showcased much of the same directorial cues he made famous in his anime.
Lured back to the world of cels and animation, Anno was given the director’s chair once again for Gainax’s new series, His and Her Circumstances. Just like him to show a flair for the dramatic, he left much of the duties to deputy director Tsurumaki Kazuya over a dispute concerning remaining faithful to the manga. It should be fairly evident that Anno’s creative juices are too strong to be bound by restrictions. After completing the risqué series Ebichu the Housekeeping Hamster, he returned to live-action with the innovative film Shiki-Jitsu. Perhaps someday he will be given free reign to express himself artistically once again and make a triumphant return to anime. Until that day comes, Anno Hideaki can take comfort in the fact that he has had a profound impact on anime matched only by few.
Battle Royal High School
Ebichu the Housekeeping Hamster
Grave of the Fireflies
Gunbuster: Aim for the Top!
Gunbuster II: Aim for the Top!
Here Comes Koume!
His and Her Circumstances
The Invention of Destruction in the Imaginary Machines
Macross: Do You Remember Love?
Mahoromatic: Automatic Maiden
Metal Skin Panic Madox-01
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water
Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Death & Rebirth
Neon Genesis Evangelion: End of Evangelion
Re: Cutey Honey
Wings of Honneamise